The Expectation Economy - Participation isn't optional!


This article initially appeared on Voxburner, one of TrendWatching's partners, an organisation that specialise in the fast-paced world of youth marketing. 

When it comes to tracking trends, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the ‘now’ and the ‘next’ and to forget why you’re tracking them in the first place. It isn’t so you know about 3D-printed organs, drone-powered pizza delivery, or the new teenage stars of Periscope before your colleagues, though that is satisfying.

There is one completely unavoidable reason why you should track trends, and it impacts all professionals in all industries. Tracking trends helps you survive and, more importantly, thrive in the Expectation Economy.

What is the Expectation Economy? It’s the world of heightening, evolving and (frustratingly) accelerating customer expectations that you and your business operate in. These changing expectations transcend age groups, cross borders, and bleed through verticals as rapidly as we identify them. Unfortunately marketers can’t get a cheat sheet for Gen Y or one for Gen Z that will keep you out of trouble for years to come. The expectations never stop moving. Believe me, our job at TrendWatching would certainly be easier if they didn’t move so quickly!

The Expectation Economy sits on three core pillars. The first of these is the expectations for Rising Quality. In a world of continual technological progress, where not only major brands but armies of DIY entrepreneurs, empowered by platforms like Kickstarter, are endlessly innovating to improve products and services, consumers can safely assume that what they’re able to buy tomorrow will be better than what they can get today. They also enjoy the benefits of total transparency, knowing that if something new is sub-par, the reviews on Yelp, Amazon or through social channels will ensure it suffers a quick death. As the Beatles sang (though admittedly not about the consumer landscape), “it’s getting better all the time”.

The second pillar is the expectation that the consumption of the future will have a Positive Impact. Consumers increasingly demand that they can indulge in their desires free from guilt about negative impacts on their selves, society or the planet (for more on this, check out Guilt-Free Consumption). Young consumers already believe that governments can’t solve all of the world’s problems, and they want brands to step in and enact real positive change.

The third pillar is the expectation for Personal Expression. It sounds simple enough, but this expectation represents a long-time coming, dramatic shift around how people accrue status. Today, status is less about what you have, and more about who you are. To facilitate this self-expression, brands can offer unique experiences, help people rapidly learn new skills (from beauty tips to beekeeping), connect with customers’ ethics and values and help them become better versions of themselves.

So, to survive in the Expectation Economy you must continually iterate and improve what you offer, there should be no associated negative impact on the planet or society, and you must help people define themselves in an evolving array of ways. Phew! No small task!

The great news is tracking tends makes this all feasible. At the heart of every trend we track is an emerging expectation. So as you read about new trends, don’t be distracted by the novelty of it, ask yourselves how the emerging expectation will impact your current or potential customers, and consider what you can do to surpass it.

Good luck!

David will be speaking at Voxburner's event YMS London on 8th-9th March 2016. Register for the event here